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Tourism as the Consciousness Industry: Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and the Mediative Authority of Tourism

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Recently, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett authored a transdisciplinary text on the manufacture of culture and heritage, examining the politicized manner in which "locations" are turned into "destinations." While her book is not exclusively about tourism, it is loaded with insight on the role of tourism/travel as an agent of display, and as a highly performative meaning producer. This review article analyzes what Kirshenblatt-Gimblett considers to be the undersuspected mediative agency/authority/power of those who work in tourism to collaboratively make "places"—and also "peoples" and "pasts." In this deconstruction of Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's contribution to the exhibitionary logic of place-making, her work on the ontological, museological, and frequently fabricative activity of tourism is first critically analyzed. Thereafter, some 30 propositions are bracketed (i.e., distilled) from what she terms as the 'the madeness" and "the hereness" of local reality-making in and through tourism. These propositional insights on the objectifications and theatricalities of the manufacture of felt or represented "difference" are found to be vitally important in an era where tourism is increasingly being touted as the educative and self-formative project of our time. Yet the emerging field of Tourism Studies remains an undertheorized domain where culture, itself, habitually subsists as an unproblematic concept in the half-light of the humanities. The author of this review article considers that the field (of Tourism Studies) has much to learn from Kirshenblatt-Gimblett on the small "p" political character of all sorts of areas of cultural selection and cultural production through tourism (i.e., of the aggregative ways in which local distinctiveness is collaboratively created, re-created, or de-created in and via tourism).


Document Type: Review Article


Publication date: 2005-09-01

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  • The aim of Tourism Analysis is to promote a forum for practitioners and academicians in the fields of Leisure, Recreation, Tourism, and Hospitality (LRTH). As a interdisciplinary journal, it is an appropriate outlet for articles, research notes, and computer software packages designed to be of interest, concern, and of applied value to its audience of professionals, scholars, and students of LRTH programs the world over.
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